A mesmerizing start — a magical nightmare journey through a gleaming modern airport, through a torrential downpour, and through some inexplicable colored lights. And along the way, some teasing, ominous episodes that do not actually come to anything. One in an underlit, indoor swimming pool is fraught with voyeuristic menace, and another in an eerily red-lit makeshift dormitory has a breathy, gossipy excitement. However, a couple of the big fright scenes are pretty piddling (one about a horde of maggots, another about a pesty bat); the pacing is often inert; and the voguish supernatural element results in some terribly incoherent plotting. Through thick and thin, director Dario Argento maintains a fanatical devotion to image-seeking (every shot packs a wallop), and a surrealist's love of gratuitous sensation. Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Joan Bennett, Alida Valli, and Udo Kier. 1977.

Duncan Shepherd

  • Rated R

This movie is not currently in theaters.

Comments

Jay Allen Sanford Aug. 19, 2010 @ 7:52 p.m.

An EC comic brought to life in living (and dying) color. Dario Argento is still doing some of his best career work for the TV series Masters of Horror, but it was 1977's Suspiria that first brought him to the attention of most U.S. moviegoers.

I saw this new in theaters, and I remember being surprised at how the audience seemed to laugh out loud at the impossibly garish red blood and prankish "horror" setups like the ceiling-dripping maggots mentioned by Mr. Shepherd. I still don't think humor is ever what Argento is going for (other than maybe his work on the original Dawn of the Dead, with its shopping mall zombies), but the cartoonish violence and over-the-top death scenarios were so unlike most American horror movies that 1977 audiences were made uneasy by Suspiria, with laughter being more of a nervous response ---

The bubbling and alternately mumbling/screaming electronic score by Goblin is also part and parcel of what makes Suspiria such a trippy view. That, and Phantom of the Paradise/Shock Treatment star Jessica Harper playing it straight for once, while Dark Shadows ubermom Joan Bennett rounds out her role of madwitch matriarch as if taken straight out of a Dark Shadows parallel time episode.

Not Argento's best movie (that IMO would be Demons), but certainly a good entry level choice for anyone wanting to look into his surreal body of wonky work ---

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